First Birthday Party: Apple of Our Eye

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This is the last time I’ll throw a First Birthday Party, and I knew what theme I wanted for Veronika almost from the moment of her birth. With big apple cheeks that were a constant topic of conversation all year, she was instantly the “apple of our eye”. The theme also fits perfectly with my autumn baby’s birth date, with apples and apple picking in the air!

It was so fun to play around with the theme for a first birthday party. Rather than inviting baby friends, it’s nice to keep this celebration partially about the parents, inviting those relatives and close friends who have helped you come through.

A beautiful Apple of Our Eye template (from Etsy) was personalized for the event to set the stage.

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Next up were the outfits, brand new ones for the family!

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Mama dress from Cotton Rose Boho, baby girl dress from SmockedALotbtq and brother’s shirt from 7ate9apparel.

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Now it was time to set up Veronika’s orchard! I filled bushels from the craft store (Michaels) with fake apples. Some were set up inside, and another bushels greeted guests next to a cheery chalkboard sign.

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Inside, the apple colors continued with a red-checked tablecloth, burlap napkins, and red and white balloons.

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I strung red pom pom garlands and glittering red dot streamers (both Party City), and hung up folding red fans which quickly morphed into giant apples thanks to a pipe cleaner stem and a construction paper leaf.

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I also strung a banner made of photos adhered to red construction paper (with Mod Podge), featuring one image for each month of her life.

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A birthday slate with an apple background was a great centerpiece for the food table.

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We kept the food to light nibbles for this mid-afternoon gathering. Apples were everywhere, including a kid-friendly serve-yourself station of applesauce pouches, apple cereal bars, and apple juice.

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Add Babybell cheeses (round like red apples!), caramel popcorn, a scattering of apple lollipops, and a few platters of antipasti for the grown-ups.

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On tap: local cider for the kids, and apple sodas and hard cider for the grownups.

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Kids at the party ranged in age from 14 years down to 3 months, so we need a variety of activities!

Activity 1: Apple checkers

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Cut a slab of wood (from Home Depot) into a 20 x 20 inch square. Divide into 8 squares per side, each measuring 2.5 inches, and paint in alternating squares of green and red.

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Add green apples for one opponent and red apples for the other and place the board atop hay bales (Michaels craft stores).

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A framed image of the rules served as a quick reminder for anyone who needed it!

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Don’t be surprised if the kids make up their own rules or just play around with the apples, though… And that’s just fine!

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Activity 2: Apple stamping

Set out pie tins, various paint colors, and apples cut in half. Poke a fork firmly into each apple.

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Show kids how to press the cut apples into the paint of their choice and then apply to a blank tote bag. These make great keepsakes to take home; in fact adults might want to stamp one, too!

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Activity 3: Apple faces

This was the biggest hit with younger children at the party. Cut apples into 1/4-inch thick slices and brush with lemon juice to prevent browning.

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Set out cups with nut butter for “glue” and decorations like raisins, cashews, chocolate chips, and o-shaped cereal. Now each child can make an adorable little face on their apple slice.

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The kids will love eating their creations!

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Aside from that, the affair was very laid-back and unstructured. Then came the big moment for her cake. We served Happy Birthday Vanilla Cake with Cider Glaze. Add cider doughnuts for older guests and everyone ends on a sweet note.

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Again accounting for the big age-range in guests, we sent kids home from the party with a simple goodie bag: fall-themed stickers and apple lollipops.

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Veronika, you are the apple of our eye!

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Celebrate Cats Four Ways

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In addition to Veronika’s birthday, it’s National Cat Day! So Travis and I took a moment out of the festivities to celebrate these amazing animals in four fun ways.

First up, have you can drew (or color in) pictures of cats. Make up a story to go along with these. Travis is having a bit of a mummy phase, so his story was about a magical mummy cat!

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Then of course we dressed up like them: simply twist pipe cleaners around a headband for cat ears. We made a matching mom-and-son pair.

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If you think it will work, consider teaching your cat a new trick!

And most important, consider visiting a shelter. Whether you bring treats or food, or make a monetary donation, or just donate your time and snuggles, the cats will thank you for it!

Birthday Celebration

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It’s Veronika’s birthday!

Whether you’re celebrating with lots of family and friends or just a few close loved ones, if you have been following along on this first-year journey, then happy birthday to your little one, too.

Veronika seems to know she’s one now, no longer acting like a baby. She wants to walk, is full of impish personality, and tries out new sounds, words, and ideas daily.

A few ways to make this day special, even though your little one won’t understand the hype:

When big brother and I entered her room this morning, we came bearing balloons and a gift she could open right in the crib. She might not know what a birthday is, but she certainly understood this was different from our usual routine!

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I also took the time to pen Veronika a letter in a journal. Hopefully this is a ritual I will continue to follow each year, for a treasured collection of words she can look back on.

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You might also consider taking a trip to the bank together to open an account in baby’s name. Chances are your baby will receive a gift or two in the form of cash. Whether it’s a regular checking account or something more forward-thinking like a 529 or UTMA, this will be a birthday gift that keeps on giving!

Finally, take a moment, at this milestone, to celebrate yourself as parents. You made it one year!

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Here is to treasured memories for the year ahead.

Strawberry Ghosts

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Scare up this quick snack for any Halloween parties or meals this week! If you prefer, try a version using melted vegan white chocolate; microwave until melted (about 30 seconds) along with 1 teaspoon canola oil. Dip in the strawberries and let set on parchment-lined baking sheets.

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Ingredients:

  • Vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • Strawberries
  • Mini chocolate chips
  1. Dip the strawberries in the yogurt, swirling slightly to coat. Transfer to a baking pan.
  2. Place the strawberries in the freezer for about 30 minutes, until the yogurt is slightly set.
  3. Decorate each strawberry with 3 mini chocolate chips for the eyes and ghost mouth.

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Happy Birthday Vanilla Cake with Cider Glaze

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This apple juice and maple syrup sweetened birthday cake is just right for a baby’s first dessert. Line up those cameras for the big smash cake moment, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons boiled apple cider
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  1. To prepare the cake, combine the flour, oat flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the applesauce and remaining 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl. Add the apple juice concentrate, soy milk, canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla, whisking until combined.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the applesauce mixture, stirring until combined. Spoon into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before turning out onto a cake plate.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Combine the butter, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cider in a stand mixer; beat until combined.
  6. Add the powdered sugar gradually, beating well after each addition. Spoon onto the cake. Store loosely-covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

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